By Shannon McKeown
RotoWire Staff Writer
Handing Out the Hardware
The season ends on Wednesday, so instead of the typical article tracking players who are improving or declining, I'm going to hand out my year-end awards.
These awards will focus primarily on statistical output of a player and how it helped in the realm of fantasy. If you disagree with any selections, voice your opinions in the comments below.
Most Valuable Player - Dwyane Wade
This was a three-man race for most of the season, with Chris Paul and LeBron James rounding out the hardwood triumvirate. The reason Wade walks away with the hardware is because his draft day cost was lower than CP3 or King James, who were likely top-three picks. Wade could be had toward the end of the first round and even slipped to the second in some drafts.
Owners who were lucky enough to land Wade were repaid with the league's top scorer (30.2 ppg), eighth best assist man (7.5 apg) and second best thief (2.2 spg). If that weren't enough, Wade has nearly doubled his career output in three-pointers made with 88 and set a new career high with 106 blocks.
Honorable mention: LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant
Rookie of the Year - Brook Lopez
In a surprisingly deep rookie class, Lopez proved to be the most effective. Among rookies, Lopez ranks sixth in scoring (13.1 ppg), second in rebounds (8.0) and first in blocks (1.0). If those numbers weren't impressive enough, Lopez also shot 53-percent from the floor and 80-percent from the charity stripe, which is impressive for a big man. Those averages will land him among the top-50 players in standard nine-category leagues.
Honorable mention: Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo, Derrick Rose
Sixth Man of the Year - Jason Terry
One of the biggest blunders I made in my draft this year was avoiding Terry like the plague. When the news hit that first-year coach Rick Carlisle planned to use Terry off the bench, I assumed he would see a drop in production across the board. Instead, Terry put forth his best season since 2000-01, averaging 19.5 points and drilling 2.3 treys per game.
Honorable Mention: Nate Robinson, Andrei Kirilenko
Defensive Player of the Year - Dwight Howard
The Magic's All-Star center has been a double-edged sword in fantasy the past few seasons, tantalizing owners as a nightly 20-20 threat, but also hurting them with horrendous free-throw shooting and heaps of turnovers. This season was no different in that aspect, but he did improve his defensive game, averaging a career high in blocks (2.9) and steals (1.0). Now that his defensive game is elite, Howard can become worthy of the high draft pick he usually costs by improving his free-throw stroke in the offseason.
Honorable Mention: Dwyane Wade, Tyrus Thomas, Josh Smith, LeBron James
Most Improved Player - Kevin Durant
Durant improved on his Rookie of the Year campaign from last year by developing into a top-five fantasy player. He became a much more effiecient scorer throughout his sophomore campaign, shooting 48-percent from the floor, 42-percent from beyond the arc and 86-percent from the line. The scary part is Durant still has a lot of room for growth. His defensive game is still raw, but once he gets stronger and learns how to use his length, Durant could easily put up Shawn Marion-type numbers as a defender. This type of sophomore jump has been seen before with Dwayne Wade and LeBron James, so keep that in mind when ranking next year's sophomore crop.
Honorable Mention: Danny Granger, David Lee, Troy Murphy
All-Fantasy First Team
PG - Chris Paul
SG - Dwyane Wade
SF - LeBron James
PF - Dirk Nowitzki
C - Yao Ming
All-Fantasy Second Team
PG - Jason Kidd
SG - Kobe Bryant
SF - Danny Granger
PF - Troy Murphy
C - Pau Gasol
All-Rookie First Team
PG - Derrick Rose
SG - O.J. Mayo
SF - Michael Beasley
PF - Kevin Love
C - Brook Lopez
All-Rookie Second Team
PG - Russell Westbrook
SG - Eric Gordon
SF - Brandon Rush
PF - Jason Thompson
C - Marc Gasol
Thanks to my fellow NBA beat writers, who made the production of this article possible with their stellar team coverage.
Remember the NBA season never really ends - playoffs, draft, summer league and then tip-off's not too far behind. Check out our blog for your offseason fix.
Article first appeared on 4/13/09